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Australian Chris Atkinson has used a conservative approach during the opening day of Rally Sweden to finish leg one in ninth position.

With a significant amount of powdery snow falling just before the start of the day the stages were contested on roads covered with a thick ice base making the tests quite slippery, particularly in the early part of the leg.

Atkinson and co-driver Glenn Macneall, who made their debut with the Subaru World Rally Team in the corresponding event in 2005, continually improved their pace throughout the day to set times inside the top ten across four tests throughout the afternoon.

While the young Queenslander finished the day in ninth spot, a mere three seconds out of a points-scoring position, Atkinson was pleased with his progression throughout the day and will be aiming to secure a spot inside the points by the end of the weekend.

“We’re a little bit further back than what we would like, but it’s not the end of the world. We knew it would be a tough event so we’ve concentrated on keeping it tidy and driving consistently,” said Atkinson.

“The afternoon passes across the stages were certainly more difficult than the morning. There were some deep ruts, and patches of ice and gravel in places. It was pretty hard on the tyres but our main aim was to get to the end of the day without any dramas.

“Perhaps we were a little too cautious in some places but there are lots of quick locals out here trying to prove a point, I guess by Sunday we’ll see how the strategy works.”

Finnish driver Marcos Gronholm leads the way by 11 seconds over Sebastien Loeb and Atkinson’s team-mate Petter Solberg.

Tomorrow’s leg consists of seven stages across a total of 141.96 competitive kilometres in the region surround the host town of Hagfors.

Rally Sweden
Top Ten After Leg One

1. Marcus Grönholm (Ford) 1:05:21.3
2. Sebastien Loeb (Citroën) +11.1
3. Petter Solberg (Subaru)+22.6
4. Henning Solberg (Ford) +27.9
5. Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) +31.0
6. Toni Gardemeister (Mitsubishi) +34.9
7. Daniel Carlsson (Citroën) +44.1
8. Manfred Stohl (Citroën) +01:05.0
9. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) +01:08.8
10. Jarri-Matti Latvala (Ford) +01:40.6

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